According to extracts released in advance by his office, Tony Blair believes that Theresa May’s government needs to start planning to postpone the UK’s exit and continue talks with the European Union, or leave the bloc, facing a “devastating” no deal scenario.
“We cannot go on like this. We should plan now for the possibility we need to extend the March 29 deadline,” he will reportedly tell the think tank later in the day.
Blair has on numerous occasions called for reversing the UK’s impending divorce from the European Union, insisting that voters have a right to rethink the decision made in the June 2016 referendum.
“Parliament must assert itself because neither Government nor Opposition can or will. Then the people must make the final decision because only they have the right to decide what version of Brexit they want or whether in the light of all they now know they prefer to remain,” Blair will reportedly say.
How Much Will the Divorce Cost?
His remarks will come amid reports that the UK could wind up paying up to 50 billion pounds ($66 billion) for the EU Withdrawal Bill due to the current government's alleged miscalculations.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has warned that the Treasury’s earlier estimates of 35 billion pounds ($46.3 billion) to 39 billion pounds ($51.6 billion) appeared to miss some 10 billion pounds in government costs, such as setting up post-Brexit customs and trade arrangements.
“The true cost of Brexit is a matter of outstanding public interest. […] Government’s narrow estimate of the so-called divorce bill does not meet this description. It omits at least £10bn of anticipated costs associated with EU withdrawal and remains subject to many uncertainties. Given these uncertainties, it is critical that parliament and the taxpayer are kept informed as agreements are reached and new information becomes available,” Meg Hiller, the Labour PAC chair said.
Meanwhile, a Treasury spokesperson has reaffirmed the prime minister’s commitments “made during the period of our membership of the EU” to reassure that the UK will not pay for any additional bloc spending.
“As made clear by the prime minister last year, we will honor the commitments we made during the period of our membership of the EU. We have negotiated a settlement that is fair to UK taxpayers and ensures we will not pay for any additional EU spending beyond what we signed up to as a member. The National Audit Office confirmed in April that our estimated figure is a reasonable calculation. Now we are discussing what our future relationship looks like,” the spokesperson said.
The news came shortly after the EU Withdrawal Bill, also known as the Brexit Bill, had received the so-called Royal Assent, giving it the status of law. The bill was approved by the House of Lords on June 21, ending months of parliamentary debate on the UK’s divorce from the bloc.
The UK is due to exit the EU on March 29 but talks are stuck on the terms of the withdrawal and no serious discussions have started on the trade agreements the two sides will have after the UK’s exit.